A Clinical Success: Making Music Accessible Through Technology - Hearing and Speech Agency

A Clinical Success: Making Music Accessible Through Technology

If you visited the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in April to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) perform, you may have seen a strange blue sign with an ear and the letter ‘T’ on it. And quite possibly you also saw any number of Hearing and Speech Agency representatives standing next to the sign eagerly talking to patrons heading in to the main level. If you’d stayed for the question-and-answer session after one of the concerts, you would have also seen an older gentleman who approached the stage with tears in his eyes, saying it was the best concert he had heard in too long.

During the month of April, the BSO and HASA collaborated to test a temporarily-installed hearing loop system on the Orchestra-level of the Meyerhoff. And, thanks to a very generous patron and several additional donors, the BSO installed a permanent system to the Orchestra and Grand tier levels in September.

People who are hard of hearing need more than just an increase in volume to enjoy sound and music, which is why the installation of the hearing loop by the BSO is such a tremendous step. Individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants can connect to the hearing loop, a sound system containing a strand of copper wire that radiates electromagnetic signals for the telecoil receiver in most hearing aids and cochlear implants to pick up. The hearing loop is designed to, when transmitting the signal, only transmit the sound coming through the microphone. This reduces background noise, competing sounds, and acoustic distortions, which in turn creates better sound clarity.

Not all hearing aids have a telecoil. Significantly older hearing aids often have a switch marked with a ‘T,’ indicating that the telecoil can be turned on. However, the newest hearing aids have automatic telecoil settings, allowing the hearing aid to pick up sound from the loop system as soon as they are inside a looped area. Some hearing aids are not telecoil-capable; whether or not they are is a question that can be answered by an audiologist.

This older gentleman who approached the stage had hearing aids with telecoil-capability. He was unaware of what a hearing loop was, but upgraded his ticket to an Orchestra-level seat to see (or hear, rather) what we were talking about. After the concert at the question-and-answer session, he was so moved by not just the musical performance, but by how clear it was. His response helped advocate for the permanent installation.

As technology advances, we must continue to take steps to make the world accessible to all. HASA was proud to be part of making music accessible through technology, and we hope everyone has the opportunity to see the BSO this year in its 100th season!

Emily Dickerson is the Communications and Community Engagement Manager at The Hearing and Speech Agency.

 

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